After amassing a private collection of African-American art over four decades, Bill Cosby and his wife Camille plan to showcase their holdings for the first time in an exhibition planned at the Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art announced Monday that the entire Cosby collection will go on view in November in a unique exhibit juxtaposing African-American art with African art.
The collection, which will be loaned to the museum, includes works by such leading African-American artists as Beauford Delaney, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Augusta Savage and Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Cosby collection of more than 300 African American paintings, prints, sculptures and drawings has never been loaned or seen publicly, except for one work of art.
“It’s so important to show art by African-American artists in this exhibition,” Cosby said in a written statement. “To me, it’s a way for people to see what exists and to give voice to many of these artists who were silenced for so long, some of whom will speak no more.”
The exhibit, “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue”, will open November 9th and will be on view through early 2016 in Washington. It will be organized by themes, placing pieces from African artists in the Smithsonian collection near similar works from African-American artists in Cosby’s collection. Curators said it will explore ideas about history, creativity, power, identity and artistry.
Some highlights include rare 18th and early 19th-century portraits by Baltimore-based artist Joshua Johnston, explorations of black spirituality in the 1894 piece “The Thankful Poor” by Henry Ossawa Tanner and Cosby family quilts.
“The exhibition will encourage all of us to draw from the creativity that is Africa, to recognize the shared history that inextricably links Africa and the African diaspora and to seek the common threads that weave our stories together,” said museum director Johnnetta Betsch Cole, in announcing the exhibit.
The exhibition of Cosby’s collection is part of the African art museum’s 50th anniversary.
Bill Cosby could be returning to the network with a new comedy as soon as next summer. The series, described as a “classic, extended-family sitcom” with Cosby as the patriarch, is currently in the writing stage, NBC executives said at Sunday’s session of the summer TV critics’ tour. It was first announced in January.
Cosby, 77, has a long history with NBC, including his seminal “The Cosby Show,” which became a smash hit 30 years ago and helped rescue a network then at the bottom of the ratings. It ran for eight seasons.
After that, Cosby headlined a sitcom at CBS, among other series. If the new Cosby project isn’t ready for next summer, it could be a contender for fall 2015.
The upcoming Cosby venture will use multi-cameras and be filmed in front of a studio audience, a format that has lost ground at NBC, where single-camera comedies like “30 Rock,” ”The Office” and ‘Parks and Recreation” have thrived. NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt said the network is trying to bring back this classic “multi” form, which goes back to “I Love Lucy” and the earliest days of network television (and which is going strong at CBS with shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mike & Molly.”)
“There’s been a generation of writers and producers who have gone away from multi-cam, and we are trying to revitalize (that form),” Greenblatt said. “There was such cachet with ’30 Rock’ and ‘The Office,’ which reinforced single-camera as the ‘better’ form, and I hope we can balance the scales a little.”
Growing up in the 1970s at opposite ends of New York State, two girls were immersed in all things cool, black and funky.
Saturday morning cartoons won their hearts. Loreen Williamson, in Rochester, and Pamela Thomas, in the Bronx, would park themselves in front of the The Jackson 5ive, featuring a tiny Michael sporting a big Afro, and Josie and the Pussycats, with the black tambourine-playing Valerie Brown performing in a hip girl band.
Eventually, the two met and bonded over their mutual interests. Not content to leave the funk (or their pasts) behind, Ms. Williamson, now 49, and Ms. Thomas, 51, have amassed more than 300 pieces of black animation art from the 1960s and ’70s, a collection that they believe is one of the world’s most extensive in that field. In 2007, they created the Museum of UnCut Funk, an online showcase for original animation cels, posters, storyboards and other objects celebrating black culture of the 1970s and its standard-bearers. Now, the two collectors have hit the road with a traveling museum exhibition, Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution, which represents 24 animated productions, including Saturday morning and after-school cartoons and animated feature films.
The revolution that it documents is from stereotype to superhero: Funky, which is currently at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem and will travel to museums in Chicago, Seattle and West Reading, Pa.honors the cartoons’ image-affirming black characters, including those of The Harlem Globetrotters, Kid Power, Schoolhouse Rock and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.
The programs are more than entertaining nostalgia, the two curators and some cultural historians say. They represent the fruits of a struggle for a say in the representation of blacks in television images, among other rights, and the newfound ability of popular black entertainers to get such programming on the air, based on their own appeal to a wide audience.
The shows offered a striking counterpoint to the previous stereotypical portrayals of blacks as buffoons in mainstream films, books, theater, advertising and cartoons. “It shows a time in American history when art and diversity and civil rights aspirations all came together,” said Christopher P. Lehman, a professor of ethnic studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and the author of The Colored Cartoon: Black Representation in American Animated Short Films, 1907-1954 (University of Massachusetts Press). “Before 1970, African-Americans were not much on television at all, except as the domestic servants of Jack Benny and Danny Thomas or as guests on variety series.”
It was no accident that Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert, described by curators as the first “positive” black-cast cartoon on TV (and the basis of the later series), was an NBC prime-time special in 1969, or, in the same vein, The Jackson 5ive, the first Saturday morning cartoon series featuring black musicians, made its debut in 1971. Both were created by two entertainment powerhouses, Bill Cosby (Fat Albert and the gang were part of his stand-up comedy routine) and Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown Records, who marketed the family music act to appeal to the broadest possible audience.
Recalling her generation’s response, Ms. Williamson, who works as an independent consultant for marketing and business, said, “We got to see Martin Luther King’s dream, at least in cartoon form.”
“There was a lot of cross-pollination with what was going on in black culture,” she said. “You could watch the cartoons, go to the concerts, see the stars on variety shows. And our white friends were watching, too.” Ms. Thomas, a preschool teacher, said: “It made me feel like, wow, I see myself on TV. I started feeling good about myself.”
Singer Al Jarreau and bassist Stanley Clarke will celebrate the legacy of their friend and musical partner George Duke on the opening day of the 36th annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, which is presenting the festival for the first time, announced the lineup for the June 14-15 event on Monday, reports the AP. George Benson and fellow smooth jazz guitarist Earl Klugh will headline the closing concert.
Saturday’s concert will pay tribute to Duke, the keyboardist, singer, composer and producer who headlined last year’s Playboy opener and was a frequent participant in the Los Angeles area’s biggest jazz event. Duke, 67, died of leukemia last August shortly after releasing his chart-topping contemporary jazz CD “Dreamweaver,” which included a straight-ahead acoustic jazz track featuring Clarke.
Jarreau first performed with Duke in the house band at San Francisco’s Half Note Club in the late ’60s and the keyboardist was featured on the singer’s 1981 album “Breakin’ Away.” Clarke and Duke recorded three groove-oriented albums together, including 1981′s “Clarke/Duke Project” with the R&B hit single “Sweet Baby.”
Comedian George Lopez said he’s “thrilled” to be hosting the Playboy festival again after taking over from long-time emcee Bill Cosby last year. “This year’s lineup of talent is unparalleled, and it’s going to be a great weekend of music,” Lopez said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. Saturday’s lineup includes singer Dianne Reeves, who featured her cousin Duke on several of her albums; pianist Kenny Barron’s trio with guest saxophonist Ravi Coltrane; trumpeter Arturo Sandoval’s big band and British singer-pianist Jamie Cullum.
NBC is re-teaming with Bill Cosby and producer Tom Werner on a family comedy. While there is no pilot order and no studio is attached, NBC has confirmed that they are hiring writers and Cosby would star “as a patriarch in a multigenerational family.” The Cosby Show, which Werner produced through his production company with Marcy Carsey, ran from 1984 to 1992 on NBC. The sitcom Cosby, which the comedian developed with John Markus and also costarred actress Phylicia Rashad, ran from 1996 to 2000 on CBS.
Partnerships with 1980s and ’90s TV stars seems to be a theme at NBC, where The Michael J. Fox Show is fairing okay in ratings. (Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing on ABC is doing better). The Cosby news happened a day after NBC announced it was scrapping its Murder She Wrote reboot with Octavia Spencer.